It is important for all Christians in general and African Americans in particular to be familiar with the saints of Africa. When we are unknowing and unwilling to share the history of blacks as a people of the faith among others of different lands sharing the universal belief in Jesus Christ, there is room for others to tell their own historical ideas. Some would have us believe that African Americans and other dark skinned peoples of the world are the true Israelite tribes. Others teach that the black man is god and Europeans are created devils. And there are various white supremacist doctrines declaring Africans and the diaspora to be subhuman mud people unworthy of any sort of equality or salvation either in this world or the world to come.
The ancient Christian world would not have known of or tolerated such foolish attitudes. Reading the Acts of the Apostles, we can see Antioch as a highly multicultural congregation. Roman persecutors ordered soldiers from Upper Egypt to slaughter Germanic prisoners. But, the African Christians refused because the Europeans were their brothers and sisters in the faith. From the British Isles to Nubian sands, being a Christian was a race no matter what you looked like. American Christianity too readily capitulated to the white supremacy that made slavery an institution. Hundreds of years of mistrust and complacency continues to keep us separated in the faith. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. bemoaned the sad fact more than once, “11 o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”
Let’s learn who our ancestors in the faith are. The Apostle Paul instructed that we should imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebrews 6:11). When we know and understand who we are, we can properly take our place at the Lords table with all humanity .
September 3rd Aristion (Kelladion) (ca. 167) Bishop of Alexandria. Born in Cilicia (Asia Minor). Martyred.
September 4th Moses the God-seer The great holy prophet and law giver. Born an Israelite but raised in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s court. Led his people to the very border of the Promised Land and died. He and Elijah appeared with Jesus at the Lord’s Transfiguration. It is said that Moses has appeared to monks on Mt. Sinai.
Abba Petronius (346) A disciple of Abba Pachomius in Egypt.
September 5th Rhais (308) Martyred in Alexandria.
September 6th David (6th century) He was the leader of thieves near Hermopolis, Egypt before repenting and being tonsured a monk.
September 11th Theodora of Alexandria (490) She was a married young woman who committed adultery. Mourning what she had done, Theodora cut off her hair, dressed as a man, and gained entrance to a men’s monastery where she was heralded for her ascetic disciplines under the name Theodore. A wicked woman accused this monk of getting her pregnant. Rather than reveal his secret as a defense, Theodora accepted the accusation as punishment for her earlier sin. She was banished from the monastery for seven years and endured harsh temptations as she took care of the child that was not hers. She was allowed back in the monastery where she lived another two years before her death. The other monks saw that Theodore was really Theodora. Her husband came to her burial and lived in her cell.
Euphrosymus the Cook (9th century) He was a cook in an Amorean monastery. His spiritual father once dreamed that he was in heaven and saw Euphrosymus there as well. The cook picked and gave him three apples. When he woke up, there were three very nice apples by his pillow. He ran to the cook and asked, “Where were you last night?” “Where you were,” Euphrosymus replied. The father told the other monks. But Euphrosymus feared the praise of men and lived in the wilderness instead.
September 12th Theodore (1st century) Martyred in Alexandria.
September 13th Serapion, Cronides, and Leontius (237) Martyred in Alexandria
Eulogius I (608) Patriarch of Alexandria
September 16th Dorotheus of Egypt (4th century) Lived in a cell in the Thebaid. He built cells for new monks and would pray and recite the Psalms while weaving mats.
Cyprian (258) Bishop and hieromartyr of Carthage. Unlike the other bishop of the same name, this Cyprian was a former socerer and was asked to cast a love spell on a lovely virgin, Justina. As he confronted her, she responded with the sign of the cross. The simple motion shamed the socerer. Cyprian gave up his magic, became a Christian. (from Wade in the River: the Story of the African Christian Faith)
September 17th Joachim I (1567) Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. He was known for his virtue and wisdom. Joachim was elected at the age of 38. Joachim was became very influential among the Orthodox patriarchs and lived to be 119. (from Orthodoxy in Africa)
September 18th Sophia and Irene (3rd century) Martyrs of Egypt
Castor (3rd century) Martyr of Alexandria
September 20th John the Confessor (310) he lived in Egypt, but was beheaded with 40 others in Palestine.
September 22 Peter the Merciful of Constantinople (6th Century) Served as a tax collector in Africa under Justinian. Peter was once a cruel man who rarely gave alms to the poor. In a vision, he saw the demons heaping his sins against him on a scale. To his defense, an angel placed his one good deed, a piece of bread thrown to a beggar, on the other side of the scale. Peter woke up and saw the dream as a call to be compassionate and humble to others.
September 23 Iradia (Rhais) (308) A native Egyptian from Batan, she was drawing water in a well by the sea when she saw a boat full of Christians headed for martyrdom. Iradia was moved by their witness and joined them and was tortured and beheaded in Antinopolis.
September 25 Euphrosyne & Paphnutius (5th century) Daughter (Euphrosyne) and father monastics. Papnutius was a wealthy man in Alexandria. His daughter disguised herself as a man and entered a monastery rather than become married. Her father was grieved over the loss of his daughter and unknowingly went to her for spiritual counsel. Euphrosyne revealed her identity to him on her death bed. After her burial, Papnutius entered the same monastery and lived in his daughter’s cell until his death.
Paphnutius and 546 companions (ca. 303) Martyred in Egypt
September 27 Callistratus and 49 companions (304) He was the grandson of Neokorus, a soldier from Carthage who witnessed the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and miracles of Jesus Christ and believed. Callistratus also became a Christian and refused to bow down to idols as ordered by his army commander. As others saw him endure great torture for his faith, they also became Christians. They were slain in 304.